Shared parenting may be one option for parents in North Carolina who are getting a divorce and who must negotiate a child custody agreement. These types of arrangements are becoming increasingly popular as fathers want to become more involved in their children’s lives, and a number of state legislatures are considering bills that will make it the default arrangement. While it is is supported by fathers’ rights groups, some legal organizations and women’s rights groups are against it.
One of their objections is that making it a default could result in women losing protection from ex-spouses who are abusive. Another objection is that it could lead to a drop in child support, which opponents say is important in addressing income disparity between men and women. However, advocates say that shared parenting gives women more opportunities to pursue education and careers since they are no longer expected to shoulder the main burden of caring for children.
Studies support shared parenting as being beneficial for children. A meta-analysis that examined studies in 15 countries found that physically, emotionally and behaviorally, children did better with shared parenting arrangements. Opponents of legislation say these studies reflect results from healthy co-parenting situations in which shared parenting would have happened anyway. They recommend alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation and collaborative divorce in lieu of legislation.
Negotiating child custody can be emotionally difficult. Parents may find it hard to accept that their time with their children will be reduced even under a shared custody agreement, and they may feel reluctant to let their children spend time with the other parent because of conflicts. However, they should keep in mind that courts will take the position that unless a child’s well-being is in danger, children benefit from spending time with both parents. Disagreements about lifestyle are not sufficient reasons to limit visitation rights although parents should raise concerns about abuse.